As this weekend’s storm has reminded us, hurricanes can be a threat to U.S. cities on the East Coast as well the Gulf. But the vast changes that have taken place in New Orleans since Katrina have had little to do with weather and everything to do with political struggles.
In an historic verdict with national implications, five New Orleans police officers were convicted on Friday of civil rights violations for killing unarmed African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and could face life in prison when sentenced later this year.
A legal dispute in the rural Louisiana town of Waterproof has attracted the attention of national civil rights organizations and activists. Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham has been held without bail since May of 2010.
One year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the promised relief and reconstruction aid has not reached those most in need. Less than 2% of the $267 million spent so far has gone to Haitian firms, the rest to "masters of disaster," big U.S. firms that hire Haitians to do the back-breaking work for $5 a day.
Just as Hurricane Katrina revealed racial inequalities, the recovery has also been shaped by systemic racism. According to a recent survey of New Orleanians by the Kaiser Foundation, 42 percent of African Americans – versus just 16 percent of whites – said they still have not recovered from Katrina. Thirty-one percent of African-American residents – versus 8 percent of white respondents – said they had trouble paying for food or housing in the last year.